Book Review: Ex Appeal (Ponto Beach Reunion Book 3) by Cathy Yardley

Ex Appeal (Ponto Beach Reunion Book 3) by Cathy Yardley

A Romance published by Montlake (11/01/22)

Summary:

Vinh is on the fast track to make it big, until suddenly one of his accounts loses millions and the only one to blame is him. Or is he being set up? Locked out of the company and the accounts, Vinh will have no choice but to turn to the one person he trusts to hack the hacker, retrieve the money, and clear his name. Will she still be mad at him for breaking up with her ten years ago when her life was suddenly turned upside down or can he convince her to help him?

Emily was on track to graduate college, get a great job, and put her tech skills to use. But that was ten years ago, before her dad died, she dropped out of college to support her mother, and set aside her dreams. Now she works a tech support job, lives at home, and is barely making ends meet. When Vinh comes to her with a proposal, she wants to turn him down, but she could really use the money. She’s kept up with her hacking skills but is still angry with Vinh for the way he broke up with her all those years ago.

Keywords:

Romance, Friendship, Contemporary, Second Chance Romance, Exes, Hacker, Forced Proximity, Dual POV, Popularity, Heartbreak, Career Focused, Tech Support, Finances

My Review:

Another great Ponto Beach Reunion book! I absolutely loved the deep dive into both Vinh and Emily. They have real problems and are still not over each other. Emily is angry at Vinh for what he did. Vinh is still in love with her. The forced situation and forced proximity are the perfect setup to let this romance simmer and stew. The author is an expert at setting up situations between the main characters. 

Both Emily and Vinh are relatable and full of personality. I loved every time they were together and all the time they spent apart. I was rooting for them from the very beginning, even before I learned more about their previous breakup. 

From previous novels, I didn’t like Vinh. He seemed cold and distant and completely career-oriented and nothing more. That all changed when I read the chapters from his POV. The author truly brings him alive. 

I love capable characters who find themselves in bad situations. Emily is an excellent hacker with skills she hasn’t let get too rusty. She just got stuck living paycheck to paycheck to support her mom and their living-beyond-their-means big house that their dad mortgaged into debt to afford. There is a believable reason for all the choices Emily has made in the last ten years but as a whole the current situation she’s in is so sad. As a strong, capable, intelligent person she is stuck. She’s not just stuck in her situation; she’s stuck in her head. There are both internal and external factors holding her back and she grows so much during the course of this story. You’ll be rooting for her and for Vinh the whole time. 

This novel was published by Montlake on 11/01/2022 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 5.0

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Cathy Yardley’s Website

Book Review: The Beauty of Perhaps by Eryn Scott

The Beauty of Perhaps by Eryn Scott

A Romance Novel published by Kristopherson Press (05/02/17)

Summary:

Molly has her life together… Same dinner dates every week. Same boyfriend. Same job. Smooth and predictable. Until her boyfriend breaks up with her because she’s boring. No boyfriend, no job, and nothing holding her back from trying out some impulsivity in her life. She gets accepted for a teaching job on the remote Scottish island Lilliebrae. Will she defy her predictable-loving nature or learn to accept some adventure and newness in her life?

Keywords:

Chick Lit, Romance, Contemporary, Love at First Sight, Friendship, Scotland, Travel, Painting, Parents, Baggage

My Review:

This book felt like a coming of age for a middle-twenties protagonist – which I absolutely loved! Like a quarter-life crisis that happens post-college. It was so rewarding to watch Molly’s growth as she changed throughout this book. There was as much self-growth for Molly as there was romance, which I appreciated. It wasn’t just Molly going through growth, but also her romantic partner Gates. I was pleasantly surprised that both Molly and Gates were fleshed out and given depth as characters. They were each compelling and flawed in their own way.

I absolutely loved the setting. I was instantly transported to the island of Lilliebrae. I could see it in the picturesque views and feel it in the tone of the place and the way the local townsfolk talked and acted. At times the local brogue was a bit difficult to parse and it took me out of the story as I tried to interpret what the characters were saying.

I really enjoyed how unique each of the other minor characters was, especially all the children! This really added to the meatiness of the novel. Solid contemporary read.

This novel was published by Kristopherson Press on 05/02/2017 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.25

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Eryn Scott’s Website

Book Review: In Her Way by Eryn Scott

In Her Way by Eryn Scott

A Romantic Suspense Novel published by Kristopherson Press (09/08/15)

Summary:

Julep is in the midst of launching her first business – a dentist’s office. Everything is going to plan until it isn’t.

Keywords:

Chick Lit, Romance, Mystery, Contemporary, Love at First Sight, Dentist, Friendship

My Review:

The characters were not that interesting. I didn’t feel very invested in them or the outcome of their relationships. I did not relate to them or care what happened to them. They felt flat and with very little depth. The main character’s thoughts were too surface level and there was too much inner monologuing and speaking directly to the reader.
I wanted more action and less telling. Even with what little was going on (there was a definitive beginning, middle, and end) I just didn’t feel engaged in the story. There didn’t seem to be much going on in the beginning half of the story and by the time the main plot was revealed, I just didn’t care. It was cliche, not very well thought out, and not very well written. It didn’t feel like there were any stakes in the first half and by the time there were stakes, they didn’t feel believable.
Kaylee and the way she was written annoyed me the most. She didn’t feel realistic. It seemed like she was the glue holding the plot together amidst this laughable romance between Andrew and Julep. I wouldn’t have finished if I wasn’t reading a physical book.
I loved the premise of the book but the execution fell far short.

This novel was published by Emlin Press on 09/08/2015 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 2.50

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Eryn Scott’s Website

Book Review: Kissing Games (Kinloch Series, #3) by Evie Alexander

Kissing Games (Kinloch Series, #3) by Evie Alexander

A Comedic Romance Novel published by Emlin Press (09/22/22)

Summary:

Valentina has worked her whole life as an actress – taking small parts and demoralizing roles alike – so she will have enough money set aside for her dream. Charlie is a bodyguard fed up with almost everyone, especially the nitwits he sometimes works for. He takes a job to protect Kinloch from the crazy Hollywood crew, meeting Valentina on the way. Opposites attract, but will that be enough to overcome Hollywood and disaster?

Keywords:

Romance, Contemporary, Standalone, HEA, Scotland, Castle, Sweet, Sex Scenes, Humor, Opposites Attract, Hollywood

My Review:

I was pleasantly surprised that this third book in the series is almost a companion novel to the second book, Hollywood Games, and some of the plot points match up between the books. I absolutely love seeing some scenes and characters and action from this new book and a new point of view. Even getting to know the main characters and side characters from book two through Valentina and Charlie in book three was delightful!

This third book doesn’t let up with the fast-paced plot and steamy scenes. The idea and main plot, just like the previous books in the series, was well-executed, simple, and clean yet there’s always something going on.

I am very drawn to the romance, the writing style, and the intriguing plot of the Kinloch Series.

If you love over-the-top dreamy protagonists – even flawed they seem so unattainable in their perfection – you will absolutely enjoy this book and this series.

This novel was published by Emlin Press on 09/22/2022 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.75

Author Bio:

Evie Alexander is the award-winning author of best-selling sexy romantic comedies with a very British sense of humor. She takes a method approach to her work, believing her capacity to repeatedly fail at life and love is what has given her such a rich supply of material for her writing.

Her interests include reading, eating, saving the world, and fantasizing about people who only exist between the pages of her books. She lives in the West country with her family.

Links for more information:

Book Review: Hollywood Games (Kinloch Series, #2) by Evie Alexander

Hollywood Games (Kinloch Series, #2) by Evie Alexander

A Comedic Romance Novel published by Emlin Press (04/04/22)

Summary:

Kinloch Castle is in desperate need of money and every day there seems to be something new to fix. On top of those worries, Rory isn’t sure Zoe feels the same about him and of course, Rory’s mother still doesn’t like her. Zoe wants to help Kinloch and the perfect luck of an opportunity presents itself when Hollywood star Brad wants to film his next movie at the castle. The only problem is that Zoe’s had a crush on Brad since she was a teen and the man is an insufferable Hollywood star. Can Rory put up with the man and his entourage long enough to save the castle or will his temper get the best of him?

Keywords:

British Humor, Comedy, Romance, Scotland, Castle, Earl, Sex Scenes, Steamy, Cabin, Family, happy Ending, Dual POV, Hollywood, Star, Movie, Braveheart

My Review:

I read this book as fast as the first one in the series. Even though the two main characters had fallen from enemies to lovers in the previous book, the author does an excellent job of keeping up tension between the two romantic leads. Much like the first book, the author has the romance beat structure down solid and the pacing is still excellent. Every scene was satisfying from beginning to end. The climax felt real and well integrated into the plot of the story and the ending was very satisfying.

Hollywood Games is even more absurd and laugh-out-loud than the first book. The idea and main plot are well-executed, simple, and clean yet there’s always something going on. It’s a fast-paced book where the slowest parts are the steamy scenes!

I loved all the characters from the first book and enjoyed reading about the new characters that Brad brings with him to Kinloch. The Hollywood people seem ridiculous but very realistically Hollywood!

This novel was published by Emlin Press on 04/04/2022 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 5.00

Author Bio:

Evie Alexander is the author of sexy romantic comedies with a very British sense of humor. She takes a method-approach to her work, believing her capacity to repeatedly fail at life and love is what has given her such a rich supply of material for her writing.

Her interests include reading, eating, saving the world, and fantasizing about people who only exist between the pages of her books. She lives in the West Country with her family.

Links for more information:

Book Review: Highland Games (Kinloch Series, #1) by Evie Alexander

Highland Games (Kinloch Series, #1) by Evie Alexander

A Comedic Romance Novel published by Emlin Press (10/15/21)

Summary:

“Zoe had never seen such perfection before. He was made by mountains, forged by fire, washed by oceans and blessed by the gods.” (Kindle Edition, 31%).

Zoe suddenly inherits a cabin in the woods near a small town in the Scottish Highlands when her great-Uncle dies. Without hesitation, Zoe leaves behind her safe life as an accountant in London as soon as her lease is up. Her childhood summer with her Great Uncle was the greatest, happiest time of her life. But the cabin isn’t the same as it was back then. It’s in less habitable shape than she remembered, with no electricity, water, and no toilet. Not to be deterred, Zoe won’t let anything or anyone get in her way of fixing it up. Rory thought the cabin would be his and his plans to fix it up before the end of the year come to a halt when he finds a surprise city woman claiming it as her own. What can he do to get her to leave?

Keywords:

British Humor, Comedy, Romance, Scotland, Castle, Earl, Sex Scenes, Steamy, Renovation, Cabin, Family, Enemies-to-Lovers, happy Ending, Dual POV

My Review:

I love books where the heroine is out of place, new, and facing a big project when she unintentionally meets the love interest in a surprising meet-cute. The odds are stacked against her succeeding and problems seem to crop up right and left (along with the handsome hunk). Highland Games really delivers exceptionally on some tried and true rom-com tropes such as Fantasy Location, Monetary Leaps of Faith, Kindly Townspeople, Shirtless Hero, Almost Losing it All, and the Central Project is a Metaphor for Their Love. This book reminded me of the Netflix movie rom-com Falling Inn Love. It’s a steamy feel-good casual beach read.

The romantic element is what makes this book so good, especially the slow buildup of the enemies-to-lovers romance that makes the eventual romance so very satisfying. After at least half the book waiting in suspense for the first kiss, the first touch, you will be rewarded with quite a few steamy sex scenes. These scenes were well written and held my attention throughout (I’m known to skim through sex scenes).

The author has the romance beat structure down solid and the pacing is excellent. Every scene was satisfying from beginning to end. The climax felt real and well integrated into the plot of the story and the ending was very satisfying.

I loved all the characters. They were all so well written. The main characters, Zoe and Rory, seemed like such amazing people, but still relatable as humans. I couldn’t get enough of both Rory’s POV and Zoe’s POV and I really enjoyed the switching POV between Rory and Zoe as they each told their side of the story. The way Zoe describes Rory, especially at first, is hilarious.

Both Zoe and Rory have a purpose outside of the slowly building romance. They each also had their own backstory that made them very compelling. I really liked how both main characters were completely independent people and didn’t need the other to complete themselves, which made their love even more compelling.

This novel was published by Emlin Press on 10/15/2021 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 5.00

Author Bio:

Evie Alexander is the author of sexy romantic comedies with a very British sense of humor. She takes a method-approach to her work, believing her capacity to repeatedly fail at life and love is what has given her such a rich supply of material for her writing.

Her interests include reading, eating, saving the world, and fantasizing about people who only exist between the pages of her books. She lives in the West Country with her family.

Links for more information:

Book Review: Sex & Sours (The Cocktail Series Book 2) by Dani McLean

Sex & Sours (The Cocktail Series Book 2) by Dani McLean

A Romance Novel published by Set the Mood Publishing (10/05/21)

First reviewed through Reedsy Discovery

Summary:

“I learned three important lessons in that time; learn the recipe but always cook from the heart; always say f*** you with a smile, and there was nothing more impressive than someone with a kind soul.” (Kindle Edition 19%).

Tiff has been the head bartender for years. She basically runs the place. That is, until owner Henry hands over the keys and the reigns to his older brother Sam. Sam has a lot to prove after losing control of his own business back in New York. When it comes to making decisions, Sam is in total control, but he’ll have to get Tiff on board and she is definitely not a yes-person! Will their bickering be the end of the bar or will they be able to work together to save what they both love?

Keywords:

Steamy, Sex, Romance, Cocktails, Drinking, Best Friends, Dual POV, Overworked, Relationship, Acceptance, Owner, Head Bartender, Boundaries, Communication, Boss/Employee Relationship

My Review:

All throughout the first book Love & Rum, I was entranced by Tiff. She is one of those larger-than-life people that makes me yearn for my own best friend just like her. She is one of a kind, honest, true to herself, beautiful, and talented. She also has her own set of unique flaws and backstories. As an introvert, I’m in love with Tiff and her charm. I don’t want to just have a best friend like her, I also want to be her. I want to be confident in who I am, hardworking, and clever. I can also relate to Tiff and her problems, some of them growing out of her flaws and some of the outcomes of her reactions to the situations she’s thrust into. She can be a hothead, speaking her mind, even when she knows there will be blowback and I love her for this.

I absolutely love how the author is able to show bisexuality through Tiff, her relationships, and her thoughts about those relationships. As someone much closer to the heterosexual end of the spectrum, the way the author cleverly wrote about Tiff and her romantic relationships really helped me empathize. I will never truly understand or be able to sympathize because my own experience will also be lacking. Through powerfully written characters like Tiff, I can put myself in her shoes and begin to appreciate the difficulties, triumphs, stresses, and prejudices a bi person may face. That’s why characters like Tiff and books like Sex & Sours are so important.

Sam has his own distinctive personality (and POV chapters) but is sometimes overshadowed by the force of nature that is Tiff. He has his own set of flaws and is a fully fleshed-out lead interest which I very much appreciated.

The world of The Cocktail Series continues with the characters Jackson and Audrey from book one but doesn’t much advance their story as this second book is all about Tiff and Sam and their journey.

The style of this book two in the series is true to the tone set in book one Love & Rum. This romantic comedy will appeal to most romance readers who enjoy dual POV, lots of steamy sex scenes, and a happy ending.

I can’t wait to read the next novel by this author and/or in this series. Not only did I feel like I learned something, but it was also a very enjoyable book to read.

This novel was published by Set theMood Publishing on 10/05/2021 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 5.00

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Dani McLean’s Website

Book Review: Love, Comment, Subscribe (Ponto Beach Reunion #1) by Cathy Yardley

Love, Comment, Subscribe (Ponto Beach Reunion #1) by Cathy Yardley

A Romance published by Brilliance Audio (10/01/21)

Summary:

Lily always wanted to be popular. Even as an adult with a mildly successful beauty Youtube channel, the impressionable rejection by two members of the in-crowd in high school is still on her mind. She’s still proving to herself and to them in her mind that she’s made it. Her agent; however, thinks she’s hit a plateau and unless she can reach a milestone of five million subscribers, she won’t have the success of her own makeup line.

Tobin has always been part of the Nerd Herd and now capitalizes on that as part of his Gaming Youtube channel. Lately, though, he’s felt burnt out and he’s been having a hard time thinking of exciting new content. He’s just tired.

Can Tobin and Lily, after years apart, team up for some video collaborations or are they too different? Even though their current goals align – make good content, they have entirely different styles and will clash at every turn. But the internet thinks they have insane chemistry. When will the two of them realize they really do compliment each other?

Keywords:

Influencer, In-Crowd, Pressures, Videos, Youtube, Gamer, Beauty Influencer, Collab, Romance, Friendship, Popular Crowd, Contemporary, Swearing

My Review:

I love Cathy Yardley romances. I love how very contemporary they are. This book, especially, is very much contemporary as it deals with influencers on social media. I also love a good enemies-to-lovers romance trope, even though this book isn’t entirely an enemies-to-lovers cliche. What I love most about a well-written enemies-to-lovers book is how slow the buildup of the romance is, how much time it takes for the main characters to get over their prejudices against each other and ever so slowly fall in love (and oftentimes don’t realize they’re falling for each other until they have to finally admit that they are in love).

For anyone fixated on social media or interested in the day-to-day life of an influencer, this book will satisfy that craving. I like to learn something when reading casually and enjoyed the influencer-heavy descriptions and explanations and focused scenes in this book. For some, it might be overwhelming, but I really liked this theme.

The two main characters, Lily and Tobin, were relatable and likable. I loved getting to know them through each others’ eyes. Both are on the outside of popularity growing up and break into their own niche popularity through their social media accounts as adults. I, too, was part of a fringe clique in high school and related very much to Lily and Tobin’s experience in high school. It was interesting and heartbreaking to get Lily’s perspective as she experienced rejection as both a teenager and an adult.

This novel was published by Brilliance Audio on 10/01/2021 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 5.0

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Cathy Yardley’s Website

Book Review: Love & Rum (The Cocktail Series Book 1) by Dani McLean

Love & Rum (The Cocktail Series Book 1) by Dani McLean

A Romance Novel published by Mood Publishing (07/06/21)

First reviewed through Reedsy Discovery

Summary:

It’s been one year since Audrey got her divorce and she’s ready to move on. Jackson has never been in a serious relationship because he’s too busy acting in a hit TV show and he’s never wanted more than a one-night stand. Audrey just wants something casual and Jackson is just the man for the job! First, the one-night stand turns into something casual. Then they start to develop feelings for each other. Is Audrey really ready to move on? Is Jackson really ready for a long-term relationship?

Keywords:

Steamy, Sex, Romance, Cocktails, Drinking, Best Friends, Dual POV, Actor, TV Show, Divorced, Overworked, One Night Stand, Relationship, Past Emotional Abuse

 

My Review:

Love & Rum is a slow to develop romance for the reader even though it is hot and fast for the two main characters. The two main characters, Jackson and Audrey, are complex, fully formed, and well-rounded characters. During the course of the novel, they both grow personally as well as together in their relationship. There is a perfect balance of narrative devoted to their separate lives and their growing relationship together as a couple. When they are together, a lot of the focus is on their physical relationship. This makes sense since they originally met as a one-night stand and progress to casual sex at the beginning of their relationship.

Though a lot of the time Jackson and Audrey spend together is spent physically, the scenes are exceptionally well written. The sex scenes are very steamy but still feature consensual and communicative sex as the norm. I really, really enjoyed the emotional component and the running commentary of the characters during these scenes.

Both Audrey and Jackson tell their story with their own chapter POVs. The POV switching was seamless between the two characters and balanced quite well by the author.

Understated but not overlooked is the diversity of sexual preferences in this book.

Though I absolutely loved both Audrey and Jackson as well as their individual journeys, I could not get enough of best friend Tiff. Everyone needs a best friend like her and I can’t wait to read her story (assuming she has her own book in this Cocktail Series. 

The plot appears simple but the story is told well, the characters are emotionally gripping, and the scenes are well chosen. I could see where the climax was coming from immediately but the ending was emotionally satisfying and optimistic. The extra chapters at the end that tied up the narrative serving as an epilogue were well placed and I appreciated having a completed and full ending.

This romance novel will appeal to most romance readers who enjoy dual POV, lots of steamy sex scenes, and a happy ending.

I can’t wait to read the next novel by this author and/or in this series.

This novel was published by Mood Publishing on 07/06/2021 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 5.00

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Dani McLean’s Website

Book Review: Rebuilding Alexandra Small by Mo Fanning

Rebuilding Alexandra Small by Mo Fanning

A Comedic Fiction Novel published by Spring Street Books (06/04/21)

First reviewed through Reedsy Discovery

Summary:

Allie Small was an alcoholic. Now she’s been sober for years, is married to a rising-star athlete, and is trying for a baby. Everything is on the up and up until she finds out that her husband has been having an affair with their fertility doctor. Not only that, but somehow the media keeps getting ahold of all the most sordid details of Allie’s troubles. It appears that someone from her past has it out for her.

Keywords:

WAG, Alcoholism, Press, Rumor, Gossip, Work, Love, Backstabbing, Media

My Review:

This book was refreshing, but at the same time had me biting my nails with mild anxiety. I never knew what was going to befall the main character Allie next. Nothing terrible happens to her, but every day some new annoyance, mishap, snide comment, or bullying occurs. At times I felt sorry for Allie and at other times I blamed her. Allie is not perfect, hasn’t always made great decisions, and sometimes lashes out. She’s like one version of ourselves, the version we are always trying to hide. Yet even then, I envy her. Allie doesn’t suppress herself. She reacts. She says what she shouldn’t and acts on impulse… but not all the time. She is trying to pick up her pieces and move on with her life, except she’s been thrust into a state of limbo. Mo Fanning has cleverly crafted this complex environment for Allie and I was enthralled watching the ups and downs of her everyday life within this environment. I was forever guessing what she would do or say next. I couldn’t put the book down. I was very curious about what was going to happen next. My life feels like it’s so different from Allie’s and I found her absolutely fascinating.

Allie is a WAG, thrust into the media and spotlight (mostly for her shortcomings or any negative drama surrounding her) because she’s married to a well-known athlete. Every time someone recognizes Allie on the street, I was not shocked at the interactions, but disgusted by the media’s negative portrayal of her. This is a reality of pop news and it was maddening to see Allie have to deal with this type of bullying. Allie wasn’t always nice to others growing up, so perhaps the way people see her and treat her now might be some kind of karma, but she doesn’t deserve it! Nobody does. The small window into the nasty way celebrities and those in the media are treated was both fascinating and saddening.

I felt like I was reading a mid-life crisis in action. Allie runs the gamut of moods, from hopeful to impassive to angry and worked up.

I was intrigued by Allie’s relationship with her husband, her friends, and people in the media. The book features heavy dialogue that is well-written and really tells the whole story.

For those who love some good gossip and day-to-day comedic tragedy, this is the book for you!

This novel was published by Spring Street Books 06/04/21 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.50

Links for more information:

Mo Fanning’s Website

Goodreads